Preserving Produce - a permaculture design poem

by Helen White

Currant plants on the allotmentI grow a lot of soft fruit and I’ve always made some jam
To eat myself, but mostly to give friends, that’s who I am

And so I thought I’d make a plan of how to do lots more
To learn new skills and use more food from hedgerows and woodland floor

I decided to use SADIM for the overall design
With lots of time evaluating each production line

I’ll use an iterative cycle for my designs
And try different ways of making things til it’s all fine

I applied all the 3 ethics, Earth Care’s using what I’ve got
That I can grow and pick and gather and recycle a lot

Fair Share’s giving away lots of produce that I’ve made
And checking other purchases, using sugar that’s Fairtrade

People care is much the same, I also thought I’d show
The neighbours how to make jam to make use of what they grow

Catch and store the energy, and then obtain a yield
Produce no waste, respond to change, observe what’s in the field

Be mindful of the feedback and use diversity a lot
Use edges and the margins and slowly process what I have got

These are the principles I used from Holmgren in my plan
There is no limit except imagination, from Mollison



CookbooksSo first I need to look around and see just what I’ve got
A cellar which has lots of space for stuff so it doesn’t rot

I also tend to keep my jars which can be used to store
All sorts of jams and jellies, chutneys and so much more

We have a large deep freeze which makes us both just stress and shout
we put things in and then forget to get the produce out!

I share a plot with a good friend and on it we can grow
Rasps, strawbs, cherries, gooseberries, plums, blackberries and sloes
(well currants, but that didn’t rhyme)

I also like to learn things and try recipes that are new
Cakes are my favourite product but I love to make jam too

To finish with the survey I looked at my cookbook range
From Mrs Beeton onwards I have lots – that’s not too strange



So what do I need to do next to help my design? Just
Sort out cellar storage and my deep freeze is a must

And maybe get more books of recipes old and new
To try new things and see what works and what I need to do

And keep recording what I’ve done instead of making notes
On scraps of paper and in books: a notebook got my vote



Jars with lids on larder shelfMy husband is a practical man, at DIY he’s good
And we found we had some racking made of metal, and some wood

And so we put the shelves up (which didn’t take too long)
With spaces for bottles and for jars it needed to be strong

And then I took the freezer and gave it a clean with zeal
Discovered foods from years ago (and had some awesome meals!)

I used to hand-write labels and my writing’s not too neat
So I thought that I’d print some to explain the food we eat

Labels - Helen's homemadeIt needs the date and contents and how many in the batch
And a catchy name like Helen’s Homemade (blank) so they all match

But that meant more computer work – I wasn’t in the mood
And so I got a stamp made out of rubber and of wood


Design 1

I had a glut of apples and with ginger made some jam
I pushed it through a sieve but found it was rather thick…

I didn’t like the consistency and so I thought I might
Make the second batch jelly by dripping it overnight

That worked out good and clear and had a colour that was pale
But how much could we use of that?  I hoped it wouldn’t stale

I looked at lots of recipes for types of apple jam
And thought of adding mint but then we don’t often eat lamb

So I added chillies chopped with extra lemons too
Then strained it through a jelly bag (and on the compost goes the goo)

But it was all a bit sweet so to my recipes I ran
And added vinegar instead of water to my pan

I now make loads of chilli jelly which tastes great to eat
And it works well with currants, red, and gives a lovely heat

It’s excellent with cheese on toast or stirred into a sauce
And goes well with types of meat and peanut butter of course


Design 2

RosehipsOn our allotment plot there is a rose bush that’s gone huge
It had a load of rosehips that I thought that I could use

I did some research both on line and reading lots of books
They all said that the middle of the hips had loads of hooks

With irritating properties that made itching of the skin
And if eaten unprocessed could cause stomach problems within

I had to be so careful to strain all of the juice twice
And I’d added in some lemons which I thought would make it nice

The problem was the syrup was like treacle, hardly runny
It’s not really a syrup but more like a solid honey

I suppose that I could add more water to the jars I made
And boil it up again, but then I haven’t, I’m afraid

It gets carved out from time to time with great difficulty
It tastes OK, the main thing is it’s very good for me

I’ve made courgette jam with pineapple, and green tomato jam
And fig and rhubarb conserve and marmalade with cardamom



And everything I make now is tested and reviewed
And friends are asked to comment so my recipes improve

I have a book where I can write the things that I have tried
And I look back and see results of recipes applied

I think that doing this design’s made me more organised
I’ve tried more jam experiments than otherwise I’d have tried

And writing it in verse was fun I didn’t have to sit
At a computer for too long, I wrote it bit by bit

January 2016


Reflections on the design

The above is a design from Helen's portfolio for the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. The design was started in 2011 and continues to evolve. The Bob Marley lyric, "We're jammin, I want to jam it with you" comes to mind!

Helen used the iterative design process, as shared in Aranya's Permaculture Design, a step by step guide. By following this process, three things were achieved:

  • More order and structure to jams, jellies and chutneys
  • Store things in a way that means they can be used in date order
  • A record of what is made, how much, and what it’s like

Iterative design process

"I enjoyed working on the design and implementation. I also tried lots of other things - not in rhyme. I realise I now do lots of different jams/jellies (recently redcurrant and hibiscus, chocolate and raspberry, raspberry and rhubarb, gooseberry and fennel seeds) in small batches, rather than lots of the same. But I can’t believe I didn’t make notes about what I did in the past!  It seems so obvious now. I don’t know why I didn’t do this years ago. Maybe I will start a similar system for cakes.

It's now much easier to find things as in date order on shelves. Plus, I now keep the lids attached to the empty jars, instead of scrabbling around to find lids to go with jars."

Congratulations to Helen on all of the designs in her portfolio and for being the newest holder of a Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design!